Monday, September 19, 2005

Sony to Introduce Bean-shaped Walkman to US

Tom's Hardware Guide reports that Sony is ready to tackle Apple head on with its Bean-shaped Walkman Bean NW-300 series portable audio players that comes in three different colors, boasts a 50 hour battery life, built-in FM tuner. The 512MB model cost $129.95, while the 1GB model will retail for $179.95.

John Barrett at Parks Associates said, "Sony should have been the one with the iPod. It is possible to knock iPod out. It could become so popular that it crushes under its own weight and loses the trendy marketing edge." Barrett believed the Bean should play well in Japan where cute products (kawaii) sell well.

Flash memory's small size also allows manufacturers to produce smaller and more interesting shaped designs. Barrett remarked that a unique design just might help disitinguish a player in the U.S. "You never know, one of the tricky things here is that MP3 players pretty much look the same, like little boxes with headphones."

Barrett thought Sony missed an opportunity to develop an intergrated player with a built in library of Sony content. However, he commented that "it's a sad irony, and Sony didn't want a repeat of the Betamax fiasco. Tension between the hardware side and the content side has made it more difficult."

Sony's price premium especially to the iPod line might make then a tough sell over here in the U.S. The 1GB Shuffle is the same price as the 512MB Bean and the new 2GB iPod nano is only $20 more expensive than a Bean with half the capacity. It looks like Sony will have a long tough road indeed...